How a catholic feminist embraces both questions and creed?
I identify as a practicing Roman Catholic. That means, I share spiritual sisterhood with some of the judges who overturned Roe vs Wade in the USA and with some of the people worldwide who celebrated that judgement on 24 June 2022.
I'm also a feminist. Like my sisters-in-arms around the world that day, I was grieved and angered at how, with 5 signatures, a woman's right to take responsibility for her life and that of her unborn child was erased.
Blame or credit it to the church, I'm personally queasy about the idea of abortion. But I've never had to face circumstances where I would feel compelled to consider abortion as an option, let alone a necessity. Suffice it to say, I'm privileged. I've never been denied access to contraception. I've never had a partner who forced unprotected sex on me. I was not a physical risk while pregnant. I did not have to contemplate raising a child with limited funds or one with debilitating issues. Add to that a perhaps inexplicable trust in a god whom I believe cares about me and knows best and I can only say - Who am I to judge what another woman in far more difficult circumstances might do. Indeed, what might I myself contemplate if pushed out of my circle of privilege? Whatever my personal feelings, I must stand for a woman's right make her own choices, for herself. And yes, for her child.
How do I embrace both my creed and my questions?
My faith and my feminism are both part of me. It can't be 'either/or'. Either pro-life or pro-choice. There must be a way through.
If we were truly anti-abortion, we would be looking at how to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
We would be talking to both boys and girls about teenage sexuality. We would be highlighting the role men play in pregnancies and advocating for greater male responsibility for pregnancy prevention. We would be campaigning for less social stigma and more financial and social support to women who choose to carry their babies to term and become single mothers.
The answer must be 'both/and'; both pro-life and pro-choice . . . The life that is already in the world and with the capacity to choose, that of a woman who must live with her choice . . .
Abortion is not simply about ending the life of the unborn child. More than anything, it is about the life that an expectant mother has to look forward to, with or without her child. Removing the constitutional right to abortion alone does nothing to address these forward concerns of the expectant mother. To the extent that the Supreme Court judgement drives desperate women to back-street abortionists or forces them to birth children into an unwelcoming world, it is actually profoundly anti-life.
I'm not sure I'm right. I do know that my straddling both positions won't endear me to true-blue feminists nor Right to Life advocates. But I feel better for having written this down and sharing it.
I'm reminded that in the church calendar, aside from that terrible ruling, it was the Feast of the Sacred Heart on 24 June 2022 too. According to those in the know, it's a feast to commemorate 'the mystery of the love of god for the people of all times'. Everyone. Those contemplating abortion. Those administering the procedure. Those ruling against the procedure and those celebrating the ruling, yes them too. Everyone. And me too. Even me in all my confusion.
Everyone? Really? Even 'them'? Hard to accept isn't it?
Sometimes though, when life is complicated, its best to simply sit with the contradictions, to acknowledge our questions even as we hold on to our creed.
Do you feel conflicted about the Supreme Court's decision?
What do you do when you feel torn by two parts of yourself?
Audrey Chin is an award-winning Singaporean writer whose work explores the intersections of culture, faith and gender. She believes in the imponderables including love, god and ghosts AND she's an omnivore when it comes to books.
Her latest book, The Ash House is about the plight of poor women in rich houses and features two foreign domestic workers. Proceeds from sales will be shared with HOME.
She is writing a sequel about mothers who die at childbirth and still-born children.
You can read about her other books here, and buy The Ash House here.